Silly Californians, they think it’s chilly. We love the 85 degree days and 65 degree nights. It’s a perfect morning for snorkeling. We are so excited! It’s our orientation snorkel. I wonder why we have to have an orientation because we have been practicing with Mike and Mistral in swimming for the past few weeks. We are experts already!

It quickly becomes clear why we, too, need the orientation….for putting on our wetsuits and snorkel gear. On the Dive Deck, we look like a bunch of silly seals wriggling, twisting, and turning to get our wetsuit pants up, to squeeze into our wetsuit tops and vests, to pull on our booties and hoods, and then to get our masks and snorkels placed properly. We learn that the tighter our wetsuits are, the warmer we will be, so we squeeze and tug until we are zipped up tight. Finally, we march down the beach and plunge into the water, just to see how it feels. We still are not quite ready. Back to the beach we go to put on our flippers and then moon walk slowly backwards into the water once again. NOW we are ready. Taking a moment to circle up and float together, we listen to TJ’s final words of wisdom, then, with our partners, we follow TJ to an underwater adventure full of leopard sharks, stingrays, kelp sea bass, kelp fish, octopus, garibaldi, skates, and abalone. Little did our Phoenix snorkelers know that they were being escorted by a lone cormorant, floating along, diving when they did, keeping a watchful eye on our kids.

CIMI’s Fish Lab is like being on dry land, yet in the waters off the beach. Fish in all forms swim in the tanks lining the walls. We come eye-to-eye with our individual spirit fish, the one with which we share a mystical connection since meeting it on Catalina Island. Calling to us across the concourse were leopard sharks, horned sharks, angel sharks, stingrays, and a lonely crab trying to avoid a hungry shark. We gently touch the swimming creatures in the tank and marvel at the feel of their “skin,” soft in one direction, rough in the opposite. The opportunity to touch these sharks is a true privilege.

As darkness descends upon us, we set off up the mountain on Shrine Hike to get closer to the stars. Looking up to the heavens and down to the sea, we listen to TJ lead us from star to star of the Winter Circle the brightest stars in our winter sky. At the center of the Winter Circle, is Orion’s bright red star, Betelgeuse, and Orion’s brightest, the blue-white star, Rigel. Aldebaran, Taurus’ fiery eye, Capella, the goat star that is actually 2 stars like our sun that we see together, Procyon and Sirius the dog stars of Canis Minor and Canis Major, Castor and Pollux, Gemini’s twin stars, make up the remaining brightest stars that circle the moon above us tonight. TJ weaves us tales, as moonshine envelops us, into a song of the stars for us to dream about tonight.

Anna and Harper turn our night into poetry.
Fluorescent moon glistens off the sea,
Sounds of sea lions echo in my head,
Salty ocean scents invade my nose,
Wind calmly sways the bushes around me,
Stars welcome me to the calm night.

Moon glowing above,
Silvery light beaming down,
Notions of serenity washing over me,
Whispers of wind, the only noises to be heard,
All worries gone with the tide.